GP body refuses call for emergency meeting on abortion services

Some doctors walked out of December EGM over refusal to allow votes on termination-related motions

The Irish College of GPs (ICGP) has agreed to “facilitate a debate” on termination of pregnancy at its annual general meeting in Dublin’s Convention Centre on May 4th. Photograph: iStock

The Irish College of GPs (ICGP) has agreed to “facilitate a debate” on termination of pregnancy at its annual general meeting in Dublin’s Convention Centre on May 4th. Photograph: iStock

 

The professional body for GPs has refused a demand from hundreds of its members for a second extraordinary general meeting on the provision of abortion services.

However, the Irish College of GPs (ICGP) has agreed to “facilitate a debate” on termination of pregnancy at its annual general meeting in Dublin’s Convention Centre on May 4th.

It has also extended the time period for the submission of motions in the issue, to April 12th.

Dozens of GPs walked out of an earlier EGM of the organisation, held in Malahide last December, over the ICGP’s refusal to allow votes on abortion-related motions and to permit discussions only on these issues.

Abortion services were introduced last January 1st, but since then hundreds of anti-abortion doctors have petitioned the organisation for a second EGM to debate the motions.

In a letter sent to these members this week, the board of the ICGP said it had come to a “considered decision” after “careful deliberation, including taking legal advice about the correct interpretation of the rules of the organisation”.

“We are very aware of the criticism and anger that exists among some members. However, the college has undertaken a very extensive consultative process with its members including online consultation, six regional meetings, a dedicated council workshop and the meeting held on the 2nd of December in Malahide.”

“The fact that over 300 GPs are providing termination of pregnancy services at this time and that over 500 have completed training is an indication that the college’s decision to provide clinical guidelines was appropriate.”

“The members of the board are your colleagues and they carry out their duties in the best interests of the patient, the college and its 3,600 members acting at all times in accordance with the constitution of the college. We would ask that this is respected.”

In an addendum to the letter, the board comments on each of the motions submitted by anti-abortion doctors.

In relation to a motion asserting that routine general practice “is not the appropriate setting in which to provide abortions”, the board says it cannot “dictate” to members whether they provide or do not provide terminations in their own practice.

“This is very much the personal decision of the GP and it was for this reason the college successfully advocated for an opt-in service.”

The letter is signed by ICGP chief executive Fintan Foy, president Dr John O’Brien and board chairman Dr John Gillman.

The ICGP, which has over 3,500 members, declined to comment.